Nearly four years after opening, Chinatown’s dinnertime darling Tonari turns into an all-day affair with the addition of a cute cafe serving all sorts of Japanese-Italian mashups for breakfast and lunch.
On Tuesdays to Saturdays (8 a.m. to 2 p.m.), the sleek downstairs bar transforms into a counter stocked with pastries and sweets, toasts, eggy handhelds, espresso drinks, and Italian-style (standing) coffee service fueled by Maryland roaster Open Seas (707 6th Street NW).
At night, Tonari continues to specialize in wafu (Japanese-style) Italian noodle dishes and pizza prepared in a deep-dish pan like one might find at a Pizza Hut in Tokyo. For its daytime debut, the same dough is used as building blocks for an “Avocado NOT Toast” topped with confit tomatoes and a sandwich stacked with Italian conserved tuna, Dukes and Kewpie mayo, ponzu, and greens. Japanese onigiri (rice balls) feature Italian flavors and fillings like garlic bread, lamb ragu, and sweet chicken sausage.
The “P.E.C. Breakfast Sando” riffs on a bodega breakfast sandwich by subbing in pepperoni for bacon as a nod to Tonari’s pizza, and Japanese egg salad or beef mortadella is balanced between a lengthy croissant-dough baguette.
Grab-and-go highlights include chocolate croissants flecked with black sesame seeds, banana bread with miso-honey butter, toast with strawberry jam and cultured butter, and overnight oats with fruits.
Tonari’s chef-partner Katsuya Fukushima — whose Daikaya Group portfolio includes essential ramen spot Daikaya next door, Bantam King nearby, and Haikan in Shaw — dove into coffee culture in recent years by taking classes and touring espresso bars across Italy.
Tonari Cafe’s drinks include a take on an espresso and tonic, a coconut shakerato, dalgona coffee (a whipped beverage that originated in Asia), and pear and apricot juices. Tonari’s popular shochu espresso martini also makes a daytime appearance at the new coffee bar. Dinner hours are still 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.